Do They Get It?

Ehrlich, Paul R. | April 15, 2014 | Leave a Comment

do they get it

One of the MAHB’s initial goals was to recruit more social scientists into the battle to avoid a collapse of civilization.[1]  It is unfortunate, as Harald Welzer of the Institute for the Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen notes about those scientists’ failure to deal with climate disruption:  “In the social and cultural sciences, it is exactly as if such things as social breakdown, resource conflict, mass migration, safety threats, widespread fears, radicalization and militarized or violence governed economies did not belong to their sphere of competence.”[2]  Welzer points out that there is probably no equivalent in the history of science when a documented existential threat “has been regarded with such equanimity by social or cultural theorists.”

There are of course outstanding exceptions such as Herman Daly and Partha Dasgupta in economics; Dennis Pirages in Political Science;  William Catton, Bob Cialdini, Tom Dietz, Gene Rosa, and Richard York in Sociology, Lee Ross in psychology, Naomi Oreskes and Robert Proctor in history, ethicist Clive Hamilton, and others.  But with regard to the vast majority of social scientists – indeed scholars in general, Welzer is correct.  The reasons are multiple.  One, of course, is simply denial.  A second is the difficulty of understanding even common attributes of social systems, which are much more complex than systems in the biophysical sciences, and the latter often contribute their complexities to the social world.  For instance, aggression, common as it is, itself remains a poorly understood behavior.  Another factor is the pathetically poor education in the biophysical sciences to which most social scientists (and most “educated” people) are exposed.[3]

The failure to recognize the seriousness of the situation also seems characteristic of academia as a whole.  The utter failure of universities to assume any leadership role in dealing with the perfect storm of environmental problems society faces could be symbolized by the fatuous response of Harvard President Drew Faust to requests that the University divest from the fossil fuel industry.  That industry has been working hard to end the sort of society in which universities can persist, and the symbolic value of major universities divesting might help wake up a society that pays little attention to abundant and widely distributed scientific evidence on important matters.  Faust clearly doesn’t even begin to “get it” despite (or because of?) her privileged background and fine (by contemporary standards) formal education, including a Ph.D. in history – a critical social science discipline often sadly steeped in irrelevance.  Her near $1 million salary is likely based on an ability to please funding sources, especially rich alumni and certainly not people who might be interested in seeing Harvard become an influential factor in deflecting society from its suicidal course.

The situation among political science scholars is equally grim,[4] characterized by the content of the magazine Foreign Affairs.  A moment’s thought reveals that if nation states (already obsolete) are going to persist through the current century, more than half the issues they need to deal with will have huge environmental components (as oil supply now dominates international concerns, food supply shows increasing signs of competing, and global pandemics are standing in the wings).  Yet the journal is totally lacking in competent coverage of the issues.  The situation in standard economics is in some ways worse as the discipline continues its plunge into insignificance,[5] but at least it has spun off a new discipline, ecological economics, that is grappling with important problems.

It has become increasingly obvious that the problem of “not getting it” is hardly confined to the social sciences.  Universities in general (as opposed to individual scholars) are doing pathetically little to solve the human predicament; as the saying goes, humanity has problems, universities have departments.  Failure to get it is also endemic to politicians in virtually every country, including (or especially) the United States.  Those politicians who take environmental problems seriously, rather than viewing them as a left-wing plot to produce more government regulations, still seem to think of them as the concerns of one more pressure group.  There are signs that President Obama does get it, but sadly more signs that his political minders and his Republican opponents are determined to keep him from doing anything significant about it.  And, of course there are the conservative “thoughtless tanks,” Fox News, and a wide variety of ideologues and intellectual prostitutes dedicated to keeping decision-makers and the general public from understanding the global predicament – even at the potential cost of their own and their children’s futures.  As Welzer says,[6] “cultural, social, emotional and symbolic factors often play a greater role than the survival instinct.”

Even within the environmentally concerned community, there are also diverse signs indicating that many do not want to grasp the full dimensions of the problem, ranging from those who fail to recognize that overpopulation and overconsumption by the rich are the major drivers of ecological destruction to those who think that recycling and technological innovation can make society sustainable.  The MAHB’s gigantic challenge is to educate and coordinate civil society so that it first “gets it” and then tries to change it; I hope it’s not too late.


[2] Welzer H. 2012. Climate Wars: Why People will be Killed in the 21ST Century. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, p. 27,

[3] Colander D, Klamer A. 1987. The making of an economist. Journal of Economic Perspectives 1: 95-111; Ehrlich PR. 2011. A personal view: environmental education -its content and delivery. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 1: 6-13.

[4] Ehrlich PR, Pirages DC. 2012. Political science in a new era. World Future Review In press.

[5] Ehrlich PR. 2008. Key issues for attention from ecological economists. Environmental and Development Economics 13: 1-20, see pp15-16. Check out also the ‘contributions’ of the 2013 winners of the Nobel Prize in economics at

[6] Pp. 59-60

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  • Dr. A. Cannara

    As a Stanford grad with 4 of its degrees, I can indeed support that: “The failure to recognize the seriousness of the situation also seems characteristic of academia as a whole.”

    Just look at the plethora of “institutes” titled as if dealing constructively with our now imminent environmental tragedies — Woods, GCEP…

    Do the folks managing these groups and writing their funding reports & peer-reviewed papers ever awake in the night and think honestly: “What I’m doing isn’t as relevant or as important as what I could be doing.”? Or do they seek broad collaboration among groups, even if it means losing opportunities for publication or personal advancement?

    My experience at Stanford, since 1961, is that research is often a business. Part of that business is to burnish the university’s standing in the granting & endowing world, rather than in the “service mankind and the environment” reality — it’s about “optics”, as today’s political marketing folks intone..

    In fact, certain topics cannot even be raised in various of the student and public forums repeatedly promoted by Stanford institutes’ management, unless, of course, $ might flow from new sources.

    As Pogo Possum once said: “I’ve seen the enemy and he is us.”

    Dr. A. Cannara

  • WorseThanPoop

    One thing Stanford can (and should) do immediately is to commit to divesting its $19b endowment from the fossil fuel industry. All the social science in the world isn’t going to help if the university itself is putting its money in the coffers of Big Oil. Please encourage faculty at Stanford to sign up at

  • waltinseattle

    maybe they should get some amall arms competence, or learn how to carry a pitchfork and torch!

  • David Anderson

    From my letter to Paul Krugman at NY Times sent once each year:

    “The architecture that grew out of the industrial revolution, on which capital markets today justify their operation, finds its raison d’etre shaking under its own weight. The cold hard fact is that this architecture is now, like an insidious disease, working against human survival. The solution cannot come from an adjustment to the existing blueprint. A totally new design is called for, one that will lead to an entirely new economic/societal structure, one that can act in concert with nature itself. You and your colleagues need to begin an articulation within your profession of new economic theory that will meet this need. I do not see it happening.”

    (see Current Blog Tab at for full letter to Krugman)

    David Anderson

  • stevenearlsalmony
  • Stefan Thiesen

    Somehow it’s interesting, in a wicked and cynical way: the IPCC in their latest report discusses whether action against climate change is affordable. That’s pretty much the same as if we’d discuss whether it is in accordance with the Quran or the Bible or the Bhagat Gita – or the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, if you like. The question comes down to the question “Can we afford, financially, to survive? Or does it cost too much?”. That’s like a parachute jumper pondering, while falling, the effort it will cost him to fold his parachute after he opened it. Is it, after all, worth all the trouble? I have written for decades that we created an economic system so economical that it could, ultimately, continue operating happily without a single human being (actually without a single living creature) around. Maybe that would be the most “cost efficient” solution? Even the IPCC scientists feel obliged to pick up the argument, because apparently they feel political and “economic” decision makers and the general public can’t think in other terms anymore.

    • Corey Barcus

      I’m not sure you understand the question.

      If we cannot afford to build a sustainable economy with current technology, then we need to look at whether it is possible to develop new technology that will allow us to afford a sustainable future. Today, our utilization of nuclear energy is quite inefficient, and it is very possible that there are near term improvements that could change the outlook entirely.

      • Stefan Thiesen

        Technology is not at all the issue. The (un-)economic drivers behind it are. The purpose of an economy should be (and correct me if I’m wrong) to assure a decent life for people, rather than to pump up global corporations and stock exchange bubbles and rescue virtual financial institutions in the name of “growth”. More efficient use of nuclear power (I suppose you refer to a “Thorium economy”) to power exactly what? The production of more things for which the demand has to be
        created artificially in the first place? I know it enrages Apple
        evangelists, but Apple for example became the world’s most valuable (stock value wise) company not by selling enlightened computers but by inventing and selling largely superfluous things and updates to them. What we have to do is step back and look at the big picture. What is this thing we call “economy”? Does it serve us, the population of planetEarth? Does it make us happier, healthier, wiser and freer individuals? A Thorium economy would not address any of the deep structural issues of the economy but merely artificially keep the patient alive and stabilize the corporate power network. The price would be, as Stanford’s Nobel winning Robert Laughlin expressed it in his book “Powering the Future” to loose one big city every decade through accidents. Mind you he is a strong advocate of a Thorium economy. He also thinks an RE based economy is not
        possible. I think he doesn’t know what he is talking about in this
        respect (greetings from Germany). Ultimately this is NOT at all about techno fixes – it is about deep design flaws of the globalized econo-financial system and its resulting drivers and incentives.

        • Corey Barcus

          I very much disagree with your analysis. I believe you are focused on a few symptoms rather than the origin of the disease.

          To address global warming, we must quickly decouple economic activity from carbon dioxide emissions. This will require rapidly growing a sustainable alternative to the fossil economy. If we are to raise the quality of life for billions of people without access to quality food, shelter, potable water, etc., we will need to grow the economy. If we are to create a vigorous space industry to protect the planet from asteroid impacts, we will need to grow the economy. If we are to counter the alarming trend of ocean acidification, we will need very cheap energy, and yes, this will require growing the economy…

          I am not discounting the problems that concern you, but it is an old idea that political and economic progress will be made by moralizing against a corrupt and established power. One could host a revolution, but the policies that would need to be adopted to address the underlying problems would be the same. Would it not be a lot more efficient to just formulate the proper policy to begin with? A technically feasible and economically viable solution to a myriad of intractable problems is sure to attract widespread support with adequate education and promotion.

          And yes, I am a supporter of the thorium fuel cycle and the technology it enables, but I am not insisting that this is the only way to address our problem with nuclear energy, though it may prove to be the most appropriate. In the interim before that technology is fit for deployment, we have Gen3+ PWRs that can efficiently decarbonize the electrical system, and a machine known as the IMSR is rather close to being turned into a prototype (Canada is pursuing this to lower the environmental impact of oil sands processing). Obviously, there are quite a few details to how this all must be done, but it is not my intention to bog down this discussion with a flood of technical detail.

  • Didem Aydurmus

    Well, green ideas as “anti-business” are not well-funded in universities. I do not care about money, so I can work on it, but sadly many do. Currently, I work on a PhD thesis on Eco-authoritarianism. It makes me feel quite lonely. Going to university makes me angry, because I see people that should know better using paper and plastic cups for everything. For me it is symbolic, since it would be such an easy thing to avoid. It is sad, but I believe Aric McBay is right, when he says “one of the things that we really have to accept and internalize is that the majority of institutions, the majority of people are never gonna be on our side.” It is probably hopeless, but since everything is at stake, giving up would be ridiculous.

  • Jack Alpert

    Paul, maybe we are starting with today’s problems and they just don’t look very significant. They don’t change my plans to go on vacation this summer or pick a university for my child’s education. However if I look farther ahead in time and I treat the earth like I a space station, I get a different view.

    The earth as a stand alone system in space in the year 2100 looks like there will be little “net energy” from fossil fuels, uranium fuels, and solar and wind facilities installations. Those systems will not support anything like our civilization.

    With luck, our hydro facilities, will be able to support, in nearby conclaves, some people living at European life styles (without cars or planes.) However, those conclaves, according you my calculations, number only three and contain only 50 million people. (see

    You can do your own calculations with increased efficiencies but the number at best is only 2-3 times larger. Unless we attain a fusion like energy source with no great investment in time and materials we just can’t support a larger number.

    Yes I know that the earth can support 1-2 billion 1750’s subsistance farmers with 1750’s technology, medicine, and transportation. However, that is not what we thought we were preparing for our kids.

    Paul, you are correct. People are not getting the meaning of today’s problems. Their scenarios are different than mine. So different, a sixth grader, given a chance, should be able to listen to the pieces presented and pick the more probable scenario. Are we not giving six graders (or for than matter anyone) these larger overarching pieces?

    Jack Alpert (See “Change the Course”)

  • Riley Dunlap

    Riley Dunlap

    While there is considerable truth to what you say Paul,
    I’d argue that there has been significant progress in some fields, especially
    within sociology. In 1978 Bill Catton and I published an article in calling for
    the need for a field of environmental sociology, and argued that it would
    require a paradigmatic shift as the discipline was premised on a
    taken-for-granted worldview (the “Human Exemptionalism Paradigm”)
    that assumes modern human societies are exempt from the rest of nature because
    of science, technology and social organization (e.g., division of labor). We
    called for the “HEP” to be replaced by a “New Ecological
    Paradigm.” Our argument didn’t gain much traction for a couple of decades,
    but since the 1990s environmental sociology has prospered (with courses on the
    topic in a majority of the nation’s sociology departments, rapidly growing
    numbers of faculty specializing in the field, huge increase in the number of
    publications, etc.). And importantly, while
    the discipline as a whole clearly has many priorities beside ecological issues
    (e.g., inequality), one rarely sees overt expressions of human exemptionalism,
    which were common in the 1970s.

    Two years later I edited a journal symposium (based on a AAAS session) on the
    “Emerging Ecological Paradigm in the Social Sciences,” in which a range of
    contributors extended the HEP/NEP dichotomy to the rest of the social sciences,
    documenting the heavily exemptionalist orientation of these fields. My sense is that disciplines like political
    science have made less progress in freeing themselves from exemptionalist
    thinking (where issues like climate change are still often approached as just another
    policy issue), and of course mainstream economics is premised on human
    exemptionalsim—with “the environment and natural resources” being seen as a
    component of the economy, rather than the economy and all of human society as
    being a component of the global ecosystem.
    Ecological economics challenges the larger discipline, but I’m not sure
    how much progress they’ve made.

    Then, when we get into engineering and business schools,
    we often find hyper-exemptionalist thinking.
    The natural sciences seem to vary, with fields like the biological
    sciences clearly embracing an ecological perspective and others like physics
    often reflecting exemptionalist views—as exemplified by the cadre of physicists
    active in climate change denial.

    In short, I would argue that the fundamental worldview or
    paradigm in which most academics and other members of society were socialized
    into for so long, which I still think is captured nicely by “human
    exemptionalism,” is the core issue preventing so much of academia from seeing
    the nature of the human situation, and taking steps to deal with it. Yet, one also should not lose track of progress,
    and again I’m happy to report that considerable progress is being made within
    sociology, and hopefully a newer generation of college students overall is
    slowly coming to see the world more ecologically.

    Here are some references for anyone interested in Catton’s
    and my paradigm argument and the progress of replacing exemptionalist thinking
    in sociology:

    Catton, William R., Jr. and Riley E.
    Dunlap. 1978. “Environmental Sociology: A New
    Paradigm.” The American Sociologist 13:41-49.

    Dunlap, Riley E. (ed.). 1980.
    “Ecology and the Social Sciences: An Emerging Paradigm.” American Behavioral Scientist

    Dunlap, Riley E. 1983.
    “Ecologist Versus Exemptionalist: The Ehrlich-Simon Debate.” Social Science Quarterly 64:200-203.

    Dunlap, Riley E. 2002. “Paradigms, Theories and Environmental
    Sociology.” Pp. 329-350 in R. E. Dunlap, F. H. Buttel, P. Dickens and A.
    Gijswijt (eds.), Sociological Theory and the Environment: Classical
    Foundations, Contemporary Insights.
    Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.

    York, Richard. 2008. “Introduction to the Symposium on Catton and
    Dunlap’s Foundational Work Establishing an Ecological Paradigm.” Organization and Environment

    • Corey Barcus

      I am wondering whether it has been considered that the complexity of developing an economically viable and sustainable economy has led to a deep rooted communication problem (call it the Tower of Babel Syndrome). Ideological presumption on the part of climate activists could be leading to the avoidance of practical solutions, like improving the utilization of nuclear energy. For those afraid of the economic consequences of renewables, they may be equating and confusing renewable energy policy with the scientific understanding of global warming, fomenting political paralysis.

      The solution might involve a comprehensive nuclear energy plan for a sustainable economy coupled with a national effort to treat radiophobia. This way, we might address both climate and poverty, enabling enough sustainable energy production growth to rapidly displace the fossil-based economy within decades, while increasing global security.

    • Stefan Thiesen

      Human Exemptionalism dies with every breath we take and every drop of water we drink. We are embedded in nature, and accelerating and increasing bio-geospheric matter and energy flows and the depletion of limited stocks, adding internal feedback loops and additional artificial (waste) matter doesn’t “exempt” us from anything. The idea is ridiculous and ultimately has its roots in the book religions. Sociology should look more to anthropology and incorporate natural science views. Last year I have been on a workshop of the “Nachwuchsgruppe Umweltsoziologie” (young researcher working group environmental Sociology) of the German Sociological Society. I didn’t see a trace of Exemptionalism there anymore.

  • davefinnigan

    The wrong people are in charge of this issue. Put the right people in charge, and we could do with Climate Change in the US what we did with Family Planning in South Korea and Taiwan where our colleagues and I helped drop the average family size from 6 kids to 1.6 in a generation. Professor Ehrlich, we met in Kingsley Davis Office in 1969 in Berkeley. Between 1966 and 1976 I was the consultant for Information, Education and Communication with the Family Planning programs of Korea and Taiwan. My fellow “field rats” and I were not part of the university “do nothing but study the problem” cabal. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work to solve the problem with a total societal mobilization focused NOT on Population as a problem, but on what every family could gain by reducing their own fertility. Population growth fell as a result of individual actions.

    That is what we need now. We need total mobilization NOT trying to get individual families to buy into solving the climate crisis which is beyond their ability to accept or comprehend, but for families to buy into saving money on fuel and energy costs by divesting themselves of fossil fuels. Kids get it. I tell them our policy needs to be “No Smoking” for the Planet as a whole. They need to get their parents to put solar panels on the roof and power their electric cars entirely off of solar energy. Then they cut the cord to both the electric power companies and the oil companies. The “Green Tea Party” of Georgia gets it. Stop scaring people with planetary oblivion and simply put reducing their carbon footprint to zero within their reach economically and they will make the transition to reduced carbon use just as Korean families made the transition to reduced fertility.

    There is a lot more detail to this plan, for me it starts with the families with young children, 80,000,000 people as yet unengaged. Our program is And we need to use the familiar system developed by my mentor Everett Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations Here is a graphic that is an amalgam of that work plus the “6 Americas” project. We need to ignore the right hand hump in this bimodal curve and just focus on recruiting the disengaged and elevating the cautious to concerned.

    What the hell are we waiting for? Time for Total Mobilization.

  • Steven Earl Salmony

    Our deafening silence about what is happening and why it is happening with regard to the unbridled growth of the human population on our watch serves to give consent to preternatural pseudoscience of economists and demographers that is broadcast in the mainstream media without objection. By not speaking truth to the powerful, according to the best available science and ‘lights’ we possess, we become accomplices to their ubiquitous abuses.
    Extant scientific research regarding the population dynamics of Homo sapiens has to be openly acknowledged, objectively examined and honestly reported. Population scientists and ecologists have been shown to be as vulnerable to denial of apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome scientific evidence as well as to capitulation to the entreaties of all who choose favorable unscientific research to be spread by the mass media without meaningful objection from many too many members of the scientific community. It is a deliberate breach of responsibility to science and humanity for population scientists and ecologists not to object to the spreading of false knowledge and thereby, to fail in the performance of the fundamental duty of disclosing what could somehow be real and true about Homo sapiens and the workings of the existential world we inhabit, according to the best available scientific research.
    Let us recognize the willful denial of the ecological science of human population dynamics. Where are the population scientists and ecologists who are ready, willing and able to attest to or refute empirical evidence that human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species; that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply; that more food for human consumption equals more people, less available food to consume equals less people and no food equals no people? No exceptions! Are these scientists blind, deaf and electively mute in the face of new scientific knowledge. Most reprehensibly, their refusal to accept responsibilities and perform duties as scientists has made it possible for pseudoscientists to fill the mainstream media with false knowledge about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things
    Is it not science, and science alone, that most accurately allows us to confirm our perceptions as objective correlates of reality and truth? Without science, thought leaders and power brokers in cultures everywhere are free to widely transmit attractive ideas at will, regardless of the extent to which the ideas bear a meaningful relationship to what could be real and true. For example, a preternatural factoid like “food must be produced in order to meet the needs of a growing population” is deceitfully given credence as a scientific idea although it reflects the opposite of the actual relationship between food supply and human numbers. Findings from science indicate population numbers are the dependent variable and food the independent variable, just like the population dynamics of other species. By increasing the food supply, we are in fact growing the human population, are we not?
    The idea that human exceptionalism applies to the population dynamics of Homo sapiens, that human population dynamics is different from (not essentially similar to) the population dynamics of other species, is a pseudoscientific factoid, bereft of an adequate foundation in science. Overwhelming scientific research regarding the human population indicates that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply. For many this scientific idea is on the one hand irrefutable and on the other hand unbelievable. So completely are many too many professionals enthralled by the notion of human exceptionalism. Exploding human numbers in the past 200 years are the natural result of the dramatically increasing production and distribution capabilities of food for human consumption that occurred with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and later on during the Green Revolution.
    Please consider that demographers and economists are not scientists. They are presenting false knowledge that is appealing because it presents what all of us wish to believe about the way the world in which we live works as well as about the exceptional nature of the human species. Human beings are mistakenly believed to be outside (not within) the natural order of living things. The false knowledge regarding human species’ exceptionalism with regard to its population dynamics is determined de facto by whatsoever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially desirable, religiously acceptable and culturally syntonic. Such de facto determinations of what is real about human nature and the existential world are based primarily upon ideology, not science.
    Refuse to be duped by clever, absurdly enriched vendors of words and highly educated sycophants. These ‘talking heads’ duplicitously claim they are scientists and then promulgate preternatural ideas and pseudoscientific theories that are passed off as well-established results of scientific research without objection from scientists.
    Let us examine the false knowledge from conventional, Neoclassical Cornucopian Economics and the Demographic Transition Theory. These theoretical perspectives are not connected to the foundation of science. The speciousness of what is presented by demographers and economists and then broadcast ubiquitously by the mainstream media is in need of correction by scientists. Ideas of endless resources availability in a finite world and an indestructible ecology that is in fact frangible are fabricated. Automatic population stabilization; a benign end to population growth soon; a glorious world by 2050 when the entire human community will reap the benefits you and I enjoy now because everyone in the human community will have entered the fourth and last stage of the demographic transition, all of these notions are fanciful and ideologically-driven. Such false knowledge as we find in the pseudoscientific disciplines of economics and demography needs to be eschewed. The best available scientific evidence must to be our guide because science stands alone as the best method by far for apprehending what could be real and true. Science needs to be categorically distinguished from all that is not science. Then, perhaps, we will be able to see more clearly how the existential world we inhabit actually works and more accurately perceive the placement of Homo sapiens within the natural order of all living things.
    The imprimatur of science has been not so surreptitiously usurped by pseudoscientific disciplines in which professional research is primarily underwritten by wealthy power brokers and corporations. Economic and demographic research is designed and the findings presented so as to comport with the transparent self interests of the rich and powerful. Where are the scientists who will speak out to correct such widespread misunderstanding and reckless wrongdoing? The conscious silence of scientists serves to give consent to ubiquitous unethical professional behavior that cannot be tolerated any longer because of the confusion it engenders among those in the human community who are rightly seeking an intellectually honest understanding of the global predicament we face and a path to a sustainable future that can only be derived from the best available scientific research. The disciplines of demography and economics are prime examples of what science is not. Perhaps the findings of demographic and economics research will soon be widely recognized and consensually validated as preternatural pseudoscience.
    “Speak out as if you were a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.” — St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380

    • jane

      Follow this link for a good example.
      Growth is taken as a given and a ‘good’ by the movers and shakers and this needs to change.
      The ‘green-deniers’ like Messrs Pearce,Monbiot and Rosling also have a lot to answer for-in my opinion.
      And the ConDems have just trumpeted the creation of 3 new ‘garden cities’ in the UK to meet the ever growing demand for housing,skewed by free market forces and relentless population growth.

      • Corey Barcus

        We will need sustainable economic growth to address global poverty and to meet a variety of other growing energy needs. It is dangerous to presume that we do not need a lot more energy in the coming decades.

        • Stefan Thiesen

          Do you mean “sustainable economic growth” or do you mean “perpetually sustained economic growth”? The first will lead to a quantitative plateau, stabilizing when everyone has everything they need and most of what they want (a scenario called “economic crisis” under current economic paradigms), while the second will lead to planetary suicide. Some countries in Europe are very close to the situation where everyone has everything – say Luxemburg, Switzerland, the Skandinavian countries. What does sustainable growth mean in this context? Where does growth lead? Is THE AVERAGE Joe in the US better off (happier, safer, healthier, better educated, wiser – you name it) than 30 years ago? I don’t really see that!

          • Corey Barcus

            Obviously, there is a thermodynamic limit to power production as waste heat will eventually exceed what the planet can dissipate. We have quite a ways to go before that becomes a concern.

            Economic growth does not need to be endless, though once the economy stretches well beyond the confines of our planet, much more growth will be possible. It is not impossible to imagine energy per capita approaching tens of kilowatts or even megawatts in the distant future.